The cook's oracle : containing receipts for plain cookery on the most economical plan for private families, also the art of composing the most simple, and most highly finished broths, gravies, soups, sauces, store sauces, and flavoring essences : the quantity of each article is accurately stated by weight and measure, the whole being the result of actual experiments instituted in the kitchen of a physician
June 13, 2008
Measured ingredients at last!
Few cookbook writers will give you a bibliography, but this one lists 250 works consulted. If nothing else, it's a guide to old and very old cookbooks, going back to the 1500s, including Sir Kenelm Digby and Mrs. Glasse. Kitchiner does not pretend that he is somehow inventing these out of thin air. "During the Herculean labour of my tedious progress
through these books many of which did not afford the germ of a single idea I have often wished that the authors of them had been satisfied with giving us the results of their own practice and experience instead of idly perpetuating the errors, prejudices, and plagiarisms, of their predecessors, the strange, unaccountable, and uselessly extravagant farragos, and heterogeneous compositions, which fill their pages, are combinations no rational being would ever think of either dressing or eating, and without ascertaining the practicability of preparing the receipts, and their fitness for food when done, they should never have ventured to recommend them to others."
This is one of the easiest to work from, of all early 19th C cookbooks, as the author is determined to include everything except precise temperatures and times (often not available in open fire cooking):
"The TIME requisite for dressing being stated.
"The QUANTITIES of the various articles contained in each composition being carefully set down in NUMBER, WEIGHT, and MEASURE.
"The WEIGHTS are Avoirdupois; the MEASURE, Lynes graduated Glass, i. e. a Wine pint divided into sixteen ounces, and the Ounce into eight Drachms: by a wine-glass, is to be understood two ounces liquid measure; by a large or table Spoonful, half an ounce : by a small or Tea Spoonful, a drachm, or half a quarter of an ounce, i. e. nearly equal to two drachms avoirdupois.
"At PRICE'S glass warehouse, near Exeter 'Change, in the Strand, you may get measures divided into Tea and Table Spoons. No Cook should be without one, who wishes to be regular in her business.
"This precision has never before been attempted in Cookery books, but I found it indispensable, from the impossibility of guessing the quantities intended by such obscure expressions as have been usually employed for this purpose in former works. "
As well, he is not to be missed for his summation of current manners regarding dinners, and some of the variation allowed in seating, serving, &c., the expenses of a housemaid, and all manner of miscellaneous windows on a bygone world of kitchens and dining rooms.